Myths of the Tattoo Industry

The internet has plenty to say about tattooing, but not all of it is true. However, as a tattoo artist it’s important to know what’s a myth so you can correctly answer client questions and better understand your craft.

To help, we’ve listed some of the most common tattoo myths in the industry. We’ll break down:

  • Myths about tattoos
  • Myths about the tattoo industry and its artists
  • What led to “tattoo myths”

Myths about Tattoos

Tattooing can seem like a pretty mysterious process. This has led to plenty of misconceptions about the process of getting a tattoo as well as healing. 

Below are some of the myths we hear the most from clients - and why they aren’t true.

Having tattoos causes health conditions. 

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Michael Joss tattoo
RAB traditional tattoo

Some people say tattoos can lead to illness or even cause cancer. This myth might stem from the fear of the spread of bloodborne pathogens, which can happen if tattoo artists don’t use sterile equipment. Additionally, some clients will have allergic reactions to ink. 

There is currently no evidence that simply having tattoos can cause health problems. In fact, some studies show that having tattoos raises the number of antibodies in your blood, which can help fight off some illnesses like the common cold.

Color tattoos hurt more than black and gray.

All tattoos hurt, and color does not hurt “more” than black and gray - but there is a reason people believe this.  

Artists have to use different techniques for inks with different consistencies. If the ink is thin, it might take an extra pass or more time to get the ink in, which adds an extra step to your tattoo process. While it depends on the brand, color ink tends to be thicker than black ink. This is why it seems like color tattoos “hurt more.” 

Getting a tattoo drunk hurts less.

Plenty of people think that having a few drinks before their appointment will make the pain more bearable. However, alcohol actually causes the opposite reaction. In fact, most artists warn people not to drink the night before or day of their appointment. 

Because alcohol thins out the blood, it causes a person to bleed more during their appointment. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, which makes a tattoo more painful. 

This is the same case for painkillers, especially ibuprofen, because they thin the blood. This means a person will bleed much more during their appointment, which can make it harder for a tattoo artist to work. 

Note:

In most states, it’s illegal to tattoo someone who is under the influence. If a client shows up to an appointment drunk because they wanted to dull the pain, there’s a good chance they’ll get turned away.

You cannot donate blood after getting a tattoo. 

If you have tattoos, you can give blood. However, each state has different regulations on how long you have to wait after getting a tattoo before donating blood.

Covering new tattoos with ointment will help them heal better.

While it might seem like a good idea to keep a new tattoo “hydrated” with a ton of ointment, using too much can keep a tattoo from healing properly. 

If there’s a thick layer of ointment on top of it, a new tattoo can’t breathe, and the ointment will actually pull ink out of the tattoo. It’s best to just apply a thin layer to assist the skin in its natural healing process.

Note:

Some people like to use Vaseline. However, petroleum products can clog the skin. We recommend going with something water-based, like Lubriderm.

Chlorine can fade your tattoos.

This one is partly true. While you’ll have plenty of customers who will jump in the pool or head to the beach right after getting a tattoo, most people know that swimming can cause the ink to fall out of an unhealed tattoo. This means that swimming in a pool with chlorine can cause the tattoo to look faded.

Once the tattoo is healed, going in the pool won’t fade your tattoos. If there’s higher levels of chlorine in the pool, it can cause some mild damage to the top layer of skin (redness and irritation). However, tattoo ink sits in the second layer of the skin, out of reach of the chlorine. 

Tattoos are more likely to fade from too much time spent in the sun, whether that time is spent in a pool or not.

Myths about the Tattoo Industry and Tattoo Artists

The tattoo industry started out as an “underground” art form, and it hasn’t always been legal. Because tattooing hasn’t always been in the public eye, it’s been easy for stereotypes about the industry to get blown out of proportion.

Only sailors, bikers, and criminals get tattoos.

For a while, this was actually true. People who were “outsiders” of mainstream society would get tattooed.

However, today this is a myth. All different types of people from many different industries get tattooed, as tattooing has become more popular.

Tattoo artists are mean.

This is another myth that used to be - at least partly - true. There’s an old stereotype that tattoo artists are intimidating and rude. Because tattoo clients were originally people who were “rough around the edges” and because tattoo artists were more rare, many artists didn’t care about customer service. 

However, as more tattoo artists have come on the scene and tattooing has become more mainstream, customer service has become an incredibly important part of the job.

Sailor Jerry practiced on cadavers.

Well…this one might be true.

Sailor Jerry is an iconic figure in tattooing, and he’s credited as the creator of the American Traditional tattoo style. However, learning to tattoo and refining his new style would take a lot of practice. 

Rumor has it that Norman Keith Collins (Sailor Jerry) had connections with local morgues, which meant he could sneak in and practice on the bodies inside.

Tattooing is a “crazy” lifestyle.

There’s two reasons people believe this: 

First, many people think that tattoo shops are dramatic places to work. A big part of this is due to tattooing TV shows, which show artists and clients fighting back and forth all the time. Much of this is scripted to get people interested and to keep them watching. 

While all tattoo artists will end up with a wild story every once in a while, most days are normal “work days.” They show up to the shop, tattoo and talk with clients, and go home. 

The second reason people think tattooing leads to a “crazy” lifestyle is because they think tattoo artists party all the time. Of course, there are plenty of artists who spend time going out. But most artists go home after work to draw tattoo designs, spend time with their family, and get some rest.

Note:

Drugs and alcohol are a big problem in the tattoo industry. If you’re in a shop where these things are part of the “culture” of the business, it’s best to look for a new shop.

You have to have a tattoo apprenticeship to learn tattooing properly.

basics of tattoo art
techniques for applying tattoos
butterfly body art

10-15 years ago, this was the case. Tattooing is a complicated process, and aspiring artists need to be able to see the process step by step. Before the internet, the only place to do that was in a tattoo shop working under a tattoo artist. In return for this education, new artists would work full-time for free to help run the shop.

However, with the recent advances in technology - learning online through video is possible for new artists. This means traditional apprenticeships are no longer required, and artists can choose to learn whatever way works best for them, their schedule, and their financial situation.

Become a Tattoo Artist With the Artist Accelerator Program

Having a career in tattooing is not only fulfilling, but it’s also the most stable way to make a living as an artist. However, for decades, the process to become a tattoo artist has been notoriously difficult. 

The apprenticeship process requires aspiring tattoo artists to work 50-60 hours a week without pay for 2-4 years. That, combined with the toxic culture of abusing apprentices, makes getting into the industry almost impossible for newcomers. 

That’s why we created the Artist Accelerator Program. Our online course provides a simple, structured way of learning to tattoo that has been proven to work by over 2500 successful students, with many of them having gone on to open their own shops all around the world. 

Inside the program, we’ll take you through every step of the tattooing process in 9 clear, easy-to-follow modules and support you along the way within the Tattooing 101 Mastermind online community.

In the Mastermind group, you’ll collaborate with other students, get answers to your questions, and receive personalized video feedback on your artwork and tattoos from professional tattoo artists. With this friendly community of both new and experienced tattoo artists, you’ll never be stuck again. 

When you join the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll have instant access to the full course and the Mastermind community, as well as our 30-Day Flash Challenge and recorded interviews with tattoo artists from all over the world. 

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program

AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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